The Peak House is located at 345 East Main Street (Route 109), at the Pound Street intersection. It was deeded to the Medfield Historical Society on October 18, 1924, by its then-owners, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick M. Smith, after which it received a down-to-the-frame restoration.
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It has long been believed that the Peak House was built by Benjamin Clark in about 1668, that it was one of 32 houses – half the houses in town – that were burned down February 21, 1676, in King Philip’s War, and that it was rebuilt on its original site by Benjamin in about 1680 and later moved closer to the road. But there are many conflicting stories about today’s existing structure. Some have it that the original house actually survived King Philip’s war and was later moved to its current location. Other lore says that a 1762 addition to the 1680 structure was the piece moved to closer to the road.
The Peak House, circa 1930
To solve the mystery of the age of the Peak House, the Medfield Historical Society commissioned Dan Miles, the world-leading dendrochronologist from Oxford University, England, to find out. Dendrochronology is the study of tree rings and is the most accurate scientific method for determining when a tree was felled.
Six of the Peak House’s main frame timbers were sampled and analyzed. All six timbers were found to have been felled in the winter of 1710/11 with three of the timbers being from the same tree. These test results lead us to believe that the current Peak House was built during the summer of 1711.
This date jibes nicely with the coming of age of Benjamin’s youngest son, Seth, who would have been about 24 years of age that summer. Most likely part of Benjamin’s plan to give his son his inheritance included building a separate structure for Seth in front of his own dwelling (today’s Peak House). Indeed, Benjamin did give his property to Seth upon his death in 1724.
Through this testing we now know now that neither the original 1668 or rebuilt 1680 dwelling exists today. However, what we have is a fine example of a first period cottage with a peak style architecture and post-and-beam construction, which was possibly built for the joyous union of Benjamin’s son and daughter-in-law. It is one of the earliest surviving examples of post-medieval English (Elizabethan) architecture in the United States and is truly one-of-a-kind. It is the only free-standing structure of its kind in America.
Whether Benjamin lived in this structure is not known, but is likely. We do know that nine people resided in this cozy home at one point in time!
The Peak House today
Although the Peak House has a footprint of less than 400 square feet, it has three levels plus a basement. Its design allows it to shed snow readily in the winter and keep the lower floors cooler in the summer. The herb garden outside the front door contains plants the colonists are known to have used for medicines and dyes as well as seasonings: sage, marjoram, tansy, basil, chives, thyme, lavender, horehound and sorrel.
During the 1890s the Peak House served as the studio to John Jesse Francis, an eminent water-color artist.
Help us preserve and maintain the Peak House. Buy a shingle!